Emails expose flaws in police system that sent P45 in post to officer's widow
FLAWS in a '˜toxic' system behind police pay errors have been laid bare in scores of emails and financial data obtained by The News.
Shocking mistakes made by H3 exposed in 127 pages of emails include a widow of a Fareham police officer being sent his P45 in the post instead of being hand-delivered.
PC Ray Hutchison’s pay was stopped in an automated process before the emergency pension was started – something a source said would not previously have happened.
The emails expose how police were forced to do HR work instead of policing.
Other problems were:
n A dog kennel withdrew services after the force took longer than usual to pay up.
n P60s were issued to all police officers and staff at a time of heightened security with ‘POLICE’ on the envelope.
n One officer underpaid by £6,000 since January last year.
n Repeated problems with supervisors and officers being unable to contact H3 over sickness and payroll.
n Concerns over the amount of information H3 staff have to officers’ details.
n Pay reduced to 50 per cent without warning.
Figures show the system was supposed to save £1,594,557 between November 2014 and March 2017 but will have in fact save £777,621.
A major review has now concluded, with assistant chief constable Scott Chilton leading a programme of work to fix errors.
And just yesterday a source at Hampshire County Council, which runs the back-office payroll and HR service for Hampshire police and the fire service, told The News workers had found 100 staff were paid allowances incorrectly.
The source said: ‘The police are being shafted and they have no say.
‘There are faults and horrific problems every month with payroll, recruiting is the most bureaucratic process and people are in despair at the frequent errors.
‘Officers are regularly overpaid or underpaid, maternity leave is messed up, allowances are being calculated incorrectly and there is no confidence that anything is right.’
Details of the errors and delays made by H3 include a car garage in Portsmouth refusing to fit new tyres on a patrol car after the police had not paid their bill.
Eventually the garage increased the force’s credit limit as an embarrassed PC was waiting for the tyres.
In an email the PC said they were ‘quite embarrassed’ as others were in the store, adding: ‘I had to be the face of the constabulary that hasn’t paid their bill or kept their account in credit.’
There were also complaints that unsocial hours were wrongly paid.
Those problems were unrelated to the 1,300 officers paid wrongly earlier this year and further problems with overtime due to be paid in holiday pay.
Another officer said they were ‘ashamed’ to be part of the force after non-payment of a bill in April last year led to them not being able to look up details on the electoral roll.
The same officer said a speed gun supplier refused to calibrate the force’s devices due to an outstanding bill.
John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, said: ‘H3 is, for our members and I’m sure for many staff, toxic.
‘It makes people have no confidence.
‘I’ve never before in all my 23 years had a situation where officers don’t trust their payslip.
‘That’s not a good position for the police force to be in.
‘The P45 sent to the widow was bad enough but it was also about the pension and pay side of it.
‘It needed me to intervene and to make sure the process didn’t take over.’
Mr Apter said the people working on H3 are good but that the process is flawed.
‘We’re dealing with a process, a system, that takes away common sense and takes away a human face – it doesn’t work,’ Mr Apter added.
‘It’s a faceless organisation. My fear is that we have literally just become a branch of the county council.’
The emails show Jenny Lewis, head of HR and workforce development in shared services at the county council, replying to one officer who complained about a pay error.
She said: ‘I can completely understand how this will mean that you and other officers and staff will have no confidence in our payroll system.’
Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said a review of the ‘root cause’ of problems in H3 had now been completed but said services working together remains important.
In a statement she said: ‘This has given us clarity about the human impact and enabled us to develop a clear evidence base from which we can now move forward.
‘There are areas such as leadership development that are performing well and over three years the constabulary has made significant savings as a result of the partnership.
‘However, the facts are showing that a one-size-fits-all solution that overly relies on self-service does not always work, and that there are a number of cases where the level of service people have received has not been good enough.
‘I’m pleased to be able to confirm that as partners we have together agreed to a programme of work to get this sorted.
‘In doing so we will aim to make sure that the service provided is appropriate for those who rely on it, we will focus on making significant improvements to the level of customer service, and we will look to take away tasks that the evidence shows are eating into the time police officers have to serve the public.’
SYSTEM AIMS TO MAKE SAVINGS
SET UP to save £4m a year between the county council, fire service and police, the H3 system has been hit by several problems.
The shared service brought together the organisations’ back-office functions, including payroll and HR. It started in November 2014 and Hampshire County Council has since taken on similar work for Oxfordshire County Council.
* 2014/15 (November to March): £360,547 planned savings cut to £228,914
* 2015/16: £621,561 cut to just £251,715
* 2016/17 (budgeted: £612,449 savings planned expected to be £296,993.
Savings were cut due paying extra staff, including £124,000 on five staff to help recruit new police officers. The force says £1.1m has been saved if one-off costs are not included.
Hampshire Police Federation says costs are higher if officer and staff time in fixing problems is counted.
THESE messages revealed in emails obtained by The News reveal the frustration by police officers with the system.
‘I know that I have been underpaid this month due to unsocial hours. This is at least the third time this has happened since they took over our payroll.’
‘We as police officers are fully accountable for all of our actions so why is it any different for those responsible for paying us?’
‘So far this has utilised three hours of my work time and at least two of my supervisor as we bang our heads against the metaphorical brick wall.’
‘Can we please have a system that works for all, or go back to the old one that worked?
‘We’ve not had an inflation-related pay rise for years and money is tight for an awful lot of officers – this system of making mistakes and then sending a letter is infuriating.’
‘To date I’ve served for 20 years and in that time can’t remember on one occasion a system’s crashed and we failed to be paid on time. In the last couple of years I seemed to have collected a number of apology letters.’
‘As I write this I have a prisoner in the holding cell/a solicitor wishing to make representation to me/prisoners to release/prisoners to complete care plans on/etc. I should not be expected to have to complete HR tasks.’
PCC CANDIDATES’ VIEWS
CANDIDATES for the police and crime commissioner post have hit out over the problems exposed.
Don Jerrard, an Independent, said: ‘It’s an absolute disgrace, it’s a total disgrace.
‘If you’re getting a P45 sent to a widow it’s disgraceful.
‘I feel extremely strongly about it. It’s very high on my list.’
Tory candidate Michael Lane said: ‘It’s important that the police have confidence in support mechanisms. It matters to have back-office functions that are effective and efficient that support the people who are busy doing the job and don’t want to be distracted by a lack of confidence.’
Steve Watts, of Zero Tolerance ex Police Chief, said: ‘It seems to be that Hampshire Constabulary is being run, its administration and HR, by Hampshire County Council.
‘They’re not used to working in police HR in the county council. They don’t get the urgency.’
Richard Adair, a Liberal Democrat, said: ‘At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who does it as long as it works. It’s not reasonable for people to get paid for the job they do. It’s demoralising.
Incumbent and Independent candidate Simon Hayes said: ‘The fact that it’s not working properly is acknowledged.
‘It hasn’t threatened the running of Hampshire Constabulary, it hasn’t created risk to the public.
‘But it’s something I would want to be improved.’
Roy Swales, for Ukip, said he was made redundant by H3. He said: ‘I’m sure there are other ways we can manage to save money.
‘I think this is a case of you reap what you sow. I don’t think they’ve delivered what they promised.’
Robin Price, Labour candidate, said: ‘It’s a result of the austerity and if the police were properly funded none of this would happen.
‘They’re working in the constraints enforced by Whitehall.’